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Games Notes: Opening Day vs. Toronto

Argh, it was close until Eric Hinske (Eric Hinske???) homered off Colome in the 9th. That was to dead center too. Colome's control was pretty shaky, I wouldn't be surprised if his location within the strike zone was lousy too...that's an easy recipe for serving up a fat home run pitch.

The official attendance was only 26,000, lower than I thought. It looked more like 28-29,000 seats filled and there are always more tickets sold than attendees. It was good to see all that Rays gear though, too bad people can't be this supportive the rest of the season.

In-game notes

I kept track of the types of balls Brazelton allowed in play. His final count was 13 fly balls and 10 ground balls with two of those flies being home runs and one being a pop-up. The odd thing was that the first 13 balls in play his ratio was 10-3, for the last 12 it was 3-7. I'm going to have to make sure to keep track of the next couple of times he pitches to see if that was a fluke or if he tends to get more ground balls as the game goes on.

I guess he pitched alright, he continued the Rays weird spring habit of not walking hitters. Four strikeouts in seven innings and a third innings isn't terrible (4.9 K/9) but will need to improve over the season if he wants to pitch well. That wasn't exactly a world-beating offense he was facing. The home runs weren't pleasant to see (neither was a cheap one either, both went pretty far), not allowing homers was the one thing he had done pretty well in the past. His FIP ERA (Fielding Independent Pitching: Walks, strikeouts, and home runs put into a formula to come up with an ERA-like number that doesn't calculate balls in play, since those can be affected so much by defense and luck) was 5.66 as opposed to his actual 3.68 ERA. Over a full season that will even out and his real ERA will rise if he has games like today's. Again, I'm not saying he was bad really, but it wasn't an impressive performance.

The other thing I concentrated on was Josh Phelps' plate appearances, all of which were against right-handed pitching today. Since hitting righties hads been his big weakness I wanted to see how he looked against them. For the most part he was alright, even against one of the best righties in the league. His first at-bats vs. Halladay was poor with him swinging at two pitches outside the strike zone then taking a pitch down the middle for called strike three. He looked fine during his other three at-bats, hitting well-located pitches for a double and a single. The only other negative I noticed was that several times he leaned back on pitches that weren't that far inside, as if he wasn't picking up the ball well enough to know it wasn't going to hit him. If that continues then pitchers might be able to take advantage of that skittishness to hit the inside corner for strikes.

Huff had too somewhat difficult plays to make today, first on a fly ball deep into the right field corner and then on a short fly ball that was dropping just out of Cantu's backward range. He tracked both well and made the catches without much difficulty.

Speaking of defense, I was less than impressed with Singleton a couple times, particularly on the double before Wells hit his home run. He hesitated before beginning to run and didn't go at full speed initially, allowing the ball to drop in front of him. I'm pretty sure Crawford would have made that catch. The next hit went over the fence, the decision to keep their best defender in a non-prime position may have cost the Rays a run already. Of course, the best way for pitchers to avoid dealing with things like that would be to strike hitters out, something three-fifths of the rotation is unlikely to do.

One more defensive note: Cantu, Gonzalez, and Lee all had some good looking moments in the field.

I had one significant quibble with Lou tonight. In the 8th inning with the Rays down by only one run with a man on first the Jays had brought in Scott Schoenweis, a lefty, to pitch to Huff. They only began to warm up a righty as Lee came to bat, there's no way they could have avoided having Schoenweis pitch to him. You've got Eduardo Perez on the bench who is being paid $800K to do nothing but hit lefties. Why aren't you replacing pinch-hitting him for Lee who has a negative platoon split vs. lefties? You're not saving him for later the Jays have a right-handed closer that will pitch the ninth. Lee's advantage in defense won't matter in the ninth if you're still down a run and considering that if Lee and Phelps both made outs then you're facing the task of winning the game with Cantu then the bottom three in your order coming up, a situation unlikely to work out in your favor. Sure, it didn't matter in this game but why aren't you doing everything possible to make you more likely to score runs?

Good to see that Alex Gonzalez is in mid-season out-making form already.

The offense had a bunch of hits but was pretty unimpressive again. There were multiple infield hits and at least a couple other hits that just barely made it. No walks either though that's more understandable considering the pitcher.

Non-gameplay notes

I was very pleased to see that the new marquee shows OBP, SLG, and OPS sometimes. The one complaint I have is that when it shows the Out-of-Town scores between innings it doesn't stay on each screen long enough to take in all the info, you have to wait till it shows it the second time.

There was a really cute redhead that sat near me (I stared frequently) but she got up and left after Hinske's homer. Alas, such beauty wasted on an early-exiter.

During the introductions a guy in front of me booed Carter when he was announced; guess he doesn't like All-Stars.

Carl Crawford needs some hair, the bald look isn't good on him.

In a way I'm more excited about tomorrow's game since Kazmir is pitching and the Rays are facing a weaker pitcher instead of a former Cy Young winner. Let's hope for a better result tomorrow and winning two out of three!